2 Stocks Sinking on Healthcare Sector Uncertainty

THC stock is pacing toward its fifth straight loss

by Karee Venema

Published on Apr 17, 2019 at 2:58 PM

The U.S. equities market is struggling for direction this afternoon, as Wall Street weighs a fresh round of corporate earnings. Among individual stocks making notable moves are pharma name Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:IONS), health insurance website eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ:EHTH), and healthcare services provider Tenet Healthcare Corp (NYSE:THC). Here's a quick look at what's moving the shares of IONS, EHTH, and THC.

IONS Stock Sinks on Roche HD Comments

Ionis Pharmaceuticals stock is down 14.4% to trade at $71.30, set for its worst day since Aug. 28, when it plunged 15.9%. The downside comes after Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche seemingly pushed back a timeline for the release of data for a Huntington disease (HD) drug it's developing with IONS. According to Cantor Fitzgerald, it believes "HD is one of the key programs that is already most baked into IONS valuation," and "this program has more risk and competition than appreciated."

Heading into today's trading, IONS stock was up 58% year-to-date, and hit a record high of $86.58 on April 8. Short-term options traders have been bracing for a pullback. The May 70 put is home to peak open interest of nearly 4,000 contracts, and data from Trade-Alert points to mostly buy-to-open activity here.

eHealth Stock Set for Worst Day in Years

The insurance sector has taken a big hit lately, on worries about proposed legislative policy changes, including a "Medicare for All" bill from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. One name taking a hit in today's trading is eHealth, with its shares down 23.5% at $50.09, pacing for their biggest one-day drop since Oct. 28, 2016, when EHTH sank 32.9%.

The stock is now set for its lowest close since Jan. 22, and traders are flooding into EHTH's typically quiet options pits. At last check, 2,781 calls and 1,753 puts were on the tape -- 10 times the average intraday amount, and volume at a new annual high. The May 60 call is most active, and it looks like new positions are being purchased here.

Tenet Healthcare Stock Near Bottom of Big Board

Tenet Healthcare stock is near the bottom of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) today, as uncertainty swirls around the healthcare sector. Most recently, THC shares were down 12.4% to trade at $22.41, headed for their fifth straight loss -- the longest streak since mid-November.

The equity is still maintaining a 30% year-to-date gain, but options traders are anticipating even bigger losses over the long term. Amid heavy options volume -- around 11,000 contracts are on the tape so far, 13 times what's typically seen at this point -- speculators appear to be purchasing new positions at the January 2020 17-strike put, THC's most active option.

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